CYC players, coaches put sportsmanship, faith first

The fifth-grade soccer players from St. Joseph Parish in Manchester had just won a competitive playoff game against a team from Queen of All Saints Parish.

The players from the losing team were visibly upset, and their opponents were not just shaking their hands as they do after each game but also patting them on their backs, giving encouragement and even hugging them.

"I was so proud of them," said Frank Ganninger, coach of the St. Joseph team. "At that point, that was more important than the win."

Patrick Madigan, Queen of All Saints coach, wrote to Ganninger to tell him how much he appreciated the hard-fought but clean game and that his opponent accomplished the difficult task of winning with class. "I was extremely impressed by the compliments and words of encouragement," Madigan noted. "It's clear you guys are not only teaching great soccer but teaching what it means to be great individuals in the true spirit of CYC competition."

Ganninger said that as a Catholic Youth Apostolate program, his team has a motto of "God comes first," says a prayer before each game and stresses sportsmanship. They shake hands with their opponents before and after games; they thank the referees after each game.

As coaches and players, in a competitive environment, they try to keep their emotions under control, he added.

St. Clare of Assisi volleyball coach Stacy Hoffman sees instilling a positive attitude toward the sport as reflective of Christ's love for us.

"With a positive attitude, anything is possible, in sports and outside of sports," Hoffman said.

Hoffman has been coaching her daughter's team, now fourth-graders, for two years. She attended the Catholic Youth Apostolate's "Coaching to Make a Positive Difference" class, and has put the concepts she learned to use. "I got a lot out of that. Players are part of the team because they're competitive, they want to be with their friends, they want to be part of a team, there's a lot of different reasons," she said, summing up some of what she learned.

Coaches should emphasize giving players the confidence to do their best and focusing on their skills, communication and teamwork. Sportsmanship and persistence in the face of adversity also are important for players to learn, Hoffman said.

She tells parents that the CYC aims to give players an opportunity to play, as equal time on court as possible.

St. Clare has parents serve as gym monitors, sitting at the score table. Hoffman asks them to be good role models and to look for and encourage good sportsmanship. At one of the first home games this past season, the parent she asked to be gym monitor, Ivan Croghan, had his hands full because the referees and scorekeepers were new to their jobs. But Croghan handled it just right.

Hoffman noted that Croghan reached out to the refs and scorekeepers and kept the opposing coach informed. "I was really proud of him for going above and beyond that night," she said.

The CYC office noted that Hoffman is a role model herself with her spirit, encouraging and recognizing the girls for their improvement as players and as a team. "My players put their heart and soul into it," Hoffman said. "I let them know that it's not really about winning or losing but about playing your best, remembering the three things we focus on."

All head coaches and assistant coaches take the "Coaching to Make a Positive Difference" class to connect the principles of the Catholic faith to players, parents and coaches through sports and see coaching a CYC sport as a youth ministry. Parents of players are encouraged to take the 27-minute, online "Positive Parent Participation" class. The program provides examples on how to handle situations such as being upset with an official. The program reminds parents that players are there to play, coaches to coach, officials to officiate and fans to support.

Buzz Swanston of the CYC Sports program noted that 700 parents have taken the class, which is being made available to parishes to show in a group setting.

The CYC, often in partnership with the St. Louis Sports Commission, has been publicizing "random acts of sportsmanship." One example was parents who noticed a scorekeeper added points for their team's score in a volleyball game and made sure the opposing team got credit. Another example was the eighth-grade girls closed archdiocesan championship soccer game this year between St. Monica and St. Bridget parish teams. One of the officials, Tim Fleming, noted that "these girls were hustling and playing hard, but players on both sides acknowledged good plays by their opponents and were always there to offer a hand up when a player hit the turf."

Swanston said that some of the players on the teams are non-Catholics, and CYC coaches "are examples to them of what a Catholic is. We have an outreach here, and have to make a good impression," he said.

Brian Miller, director of the Catholic Youth Apostolate, recently said the idea is to give children "a safe space to have fun and play but also teach them virtue and teach them how to order that in their lives." 

Basketball and chess

Online team registration for CYC high school basketball and for CYC grade school chess, grades kindergarten through 8, is open. For more information or to register your team, go to www.cycstl.sportssignup.com. Registration for both the programs will remain open until Dec. 30.

For answers to questions, call Butch Rosier at (314) 792-7255 or email brosier@archstl.org 

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